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Woods stretches his edge

His lead is up to six shots over Furyk after a 67 at Sherwood, as the player of the year continues to show little rust despite a 2 1/2 -month break.

December 16, 2007|Thomas Bonk | Times Staff Writer

Chasing Tiger Woods down is never simple, and it's not getting any easier. Woods began the third round of the Target World Challenge with a four-shot lead and ended it with a six-shot lead, after his five-under-par 67 Saturday at Sherwood Country Cub.

Time is running out, for the players chasing Woods, and for the 2007 season. It has been 347 days since it began at Kapalua, and it is a mere 18 days until a new one starts up again.

The clock may be ticking, but so is Woods, who seems on the verge of closing out his season with an eighth victory, perhaps in a breeze. His rounds of 69-62-67 add up to a total of 18-under 198.

Zach Johnson said Woods just has to feel some pressure.

"He is human . . . I think," the Masters champion said. "Partially, anyway."

Jim Furyk is the nearest to Woods, but after his 69, he's six shots in arrears. Johnson, seven shots behind, sized up his chances.

"Seven, that's too far. Part of it is who's in front of you. Seven shots is too much behind Tiger Woods."

Woods didn't feel all that great while warming up. And even though he birdied the first two holes, he said he never felt comfortable for more than a hole and a half, and yet he still managed to increase his lead.

His task today is to make birdies, avoid mistakes, and stay on track. That way, Woods said, he will take one variable out of the equation.

"Not let those guys back in the golf tournament," he said.

After taking a 2 1/2 -month break from golf, Woods should have been rusty, or at least a little bit creaky, but outside of a couple of bogeys on the front nine, his progress was uninterrupted.

Furyk trailed Woods by four shots when they reached the par-three 12th, where Woods flirted with a bogey after he landed in a bunker and Furyk was in birdie range when he stopped his ball about four feet from the pin.

But Furyk missed his putt and Woods managed to save par to keep his advantage intact. Furyk picked up a shot when he birdied the 580-yard 13th, then hit his tee shot into the water at the par-three 15th and wound up with a double bogey. That ended his streak of 40 holes without a bogey.

It also put Woods five shots ahead of Furyk with three holes to go and no one else closer than seven shots. With a birdie at the 18th, Woods' lead was six, matching the largest 54-hole lead in the nine years of this tournament.

The key to Woods' round might have been the putt he sank from 35 feet to save par at the 14th, after he drove into a patch of dirt and had mud on his ball. The ball squirted left and buried in a bunker, but Woods blasted out, then rolled in the long putt.

"I stole a four there," he said.

Henrik Stenson made his move with a 65, but he's eight shots behind Woods. Catching up is farfetched, Stenson said.

"He's [18] under, so it's not going to happen, is it? It feels like at the moment I'm in the race for second place."

Furyk's only real mistake was a mis-hit six-iron at the 15th. But he also was fortunate to save par at the 17th when he missed the green and was awarded a free drop because new sod in front of his ball would have affected his swing.

Furyk was asked about his thought process, trailing Woods by six shots on the final day. He answered with an expletive. He said it with a smile, though, which is probably the best way to handle a situation that seems more out of control every time Woods swings his club.

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Woods said he is hopeful that the date for the Target World Challenge will be scheduled a week later in December in 2009. If the PGA Tour goes along, the date would be Dec. 17-20 and Woods hopes the new timing attracts more European Tour players.

The deal to hold the tournament at Sherwood ends after the 2009 event, but talks to renew the agreement are expected soon, according to Peter Wagner, the club president.

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thomas.bonk@latimes.com

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